I have a confession - I'm a Nervous Traveller.
I get nervous about missing my flight, losing my luggage, missing all the interesting bits at my destination, getting kidnapped and having my organs harvested etc. As with anything I get nervous about, I plan my travel to smithereens. I’ll write up my travel schedule, list flight numbers and gate names, and print up maps of my route. If I’m going abroad I’ll even compile a wallet-sized list of important translations – “Thank you”, “Where are the toilets?” and “Help! My organs are being harvested!” This inevitably results in lugging a big wad of paper with me everywhere I go. But in the age of smart phones, Wi-Fi and wearable tech, it’s beginning to feel a bit old school.
Technology has transformed many areas of our lives over recent years, and travel is no different. Though the nature of how we board trains and sit in airport lounges hasn’t really changed much in the last decade, there are plenty of innovations making travel more pleasant for Nervous Travellers like me, and opening up exciting opportunities for travel brands along the way.
Pointing the way forward with Beacons
Beacons are small, low-cost electronic devices that detect and transmit messages to nearby smartphones, such as directions or schedule updates. Although relatively new, you can already find these in a handful of airports around the world. The benefits of beacons are two-fold: Firstly, travellers can receive helpful messages like “Hey, you’re now at Gate 4” or “Why not pop into WH Smith where we’ve got this special offer on”.
Secondly, airport owners can record anonymous analytics as people journey around the airport. Imagine the data brands could access! E.g. people who stopped at Shop A also stopped at Shop B, but shop C is only visited by people on their way to international departures etc. However, brands who use beacons must make sure they offer travellers a genuine service and not spam consumers to the point where they find ways to block beacons (as happened with Bluetooth in the mid 00s).
Making sense of travel with Translation Apps
So getting around airports is getting easier, but what about getting around in a foreign country? It’s widely acknowledged that we English-speaking countries are lagging behind our European counterparts when it comes to languages. We almost expect everyone to speak English when we travel, and then easily get lost when this fails to be the case.
Well, thanks to the wonder of smartphones and the power of the cloud, there’s now a range of translation apps. And we’re not just talking about awkwardly tapping out how you think a word is spelled and then getting a translation. Google Translate can instantly translate signs just by pointing your camera at them, and can even translate spoken dialogue. If the global community picks up on apps like these, they could have a big effect on the experiences travel brands can offer. Imagine what your travel brand could offer if language was no longer an issue.
Getting around with Wearable Technology
Another area travel brands should keep an eye on is wearable tech. Since its initial announcement, the Apple Watch has been a gadget of desire. And as a tool for the globetrotting traveller, it has definitely shown its value. From the convenience of your wrist travellers can have their boarding card, status and departure of their flight (with BA and EasyJet), a step-by-step itinerary via Expedia and call an Uber driver with a single tap. Hotels Tonight’s app even provides turn by turn directions to your hotel via a series of buzzes on your wrist – far more discrete than waving a phone around.
Apps for wearable tech will soon become more expected as technology improves. Travel brands will need to think about how they incorporate this into their services if they want to keep up with traveller expectations.
Opening up the world with Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) is another ever-expanding area of interest for travel brands. Many tourism companies are already using VR to allow consumers to experience their dream destinations. You can now take a virtual dive through the barrier reef and even explore Dubai’s famous Burj Al Arab Jumeriah hotel before you go. Android users can also take advantage of Google Maps’ built-in VR support and explore anywhere that’s on Street View using the Google Cardboard headset.
This is great for Nervous Travellers like me, but what’s even more interesting is that airlines are currently investigating VR for in-flight entertainment. Imagine, instead of trying to ignore the sleeping businessman in the next seat or choosing which sanitised version of last summer’s blockbusters to watch, travellers could be fully immersed in a fantasy world, riding a rollercoaster or even sitting on the beach. I know which airline I’d choose!
So there we have it – a slew of new innovations helping the Nervous Traveller spend more time relaxing, and offering exciting opportunities for travel brands along the way.